New Mindsets Deliver New Results

Almost everyone has heard some version of this famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein. His maxim certainly seems to hold true when it comes to creating culture transformations within organizations.

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”
– Albert Einstein

How do you get people on-board with a new mindset, particularly when the current culture might not fully support or even work against the desired change?

We think part of the the answer lies in paradox. Specifically, in the paradoxical answer to this question:

Is it easier to think your way into a new way of acting or to act your way into a new way of thinking?

In our experience, it is most efficient and effective to approach the mindset shifts required for a culture transformation by helping leaders raise the level of their thinking while getting them to experiment with small, safe behavior changes.

Thinking Your Way into New Ways of Being/Behaving

Virtually all culture transformations require a new complexity of thinking.

For example, the Seven Levels of Leadership as described and measured by our partners at the Barrett Values Centre show a maturity progression of leadership thinking at 7 distinct levels.

There are many ways to help leaders adopt new perspectives, where they experience new ways of looking at things beyond their previous point of view. One is simply teaching a maturity model such as the one shown here. Other methods help leaders perceive new ways of viewing their organizational systems, helping them adopt a viewpoint beside or above the previous, simpler view of the system. This has been called observing from the balcony while dancing on the dance floor. Embracing paradox is another way to encourage growth in complexity thinking. So is seeking new perspectives and learning more collaborative approaches to decision-making.

The Underlying Challenge of Growth versus Fixed Mindset

Underlying any shift in complexity thinking is the need to understand and embrace growth mindset and let go of fixed mindset.

People at all levels deal with the internal struggle to look good and not make mistakes, which is at odds with our need to learn and grow and develop.

Research shows that the fear of making mistakes overrides the excitement of experimentation and learning for most of us. This is directly at odds with the transformations most organizations are trying to make which focus on innovating and learning faster to stay ahead of the changing marketplace.

Many organizations want to become the type of learning organization where it is OK to fail fast, as long as you learn from the failure. Unfortunately, many of those same organizations have a long history of the opposite: where the unwritten rule is that it is NOT OK to fail, and a major public failure can mark the end of your career. That is why we usually include addressing this basic underlying human dilemma as part of our culture transformation programs.

Behave Your Way into New Ways of Thinking

Another way to stimulate complexity of thinking and development of new perspectives involves the use of small, safe, behavioral practices.

To illustrate this, let’s take the practice of coaching skills as a way to instill a servant leadership mindset.

Leadership Beyond Limits has a lot of experience helping create a culture of coaching and the mindset that a primary responsibility of leaders is to focus on the development of their people.

This is the essence of servant leadership.

Time after time we see leaders shift into this mindset only after they witness the results of their new coaching practices (listening & asking questions).

Because most leaders have come up through command and control environments, they are used to solving problems for their people by telling them what to do. They have the mindset of an expert, a problem solver, a manager and a “boss”. 

As leaders learn instead to listen and ask questions to help their people take accountability to solve their own problems, they struggle. They are not used to listening to understand how their employee can be developed. They are not used to asking questions designed to bring out the potential and best thinking of their employees.

This new practice of coaching feels uncomfortable and they feel foolish that the simple practice of deeper listening and more insightful questions feels so hard. But soon, something magical happens.

People Really Do Have the Best Answer Inside of Themselves

Coaching holds the promise that it is a better way to get results from people.  Results they have ownership over because they came up with the solution themselves rather than being told what to do by their boss.

Within a few days or weeks of practicing their new listening and questioning skills while holding back on giving their advice, one of their employees will come up with a solution that is EVEN BETTER than the one the leader had in mind.

When leaders experience this result, they begin to become true believers that coaching really is a better way to lead.

The mindset characteristics of a servant leader; such as listening, empathy, empowerment and awareness suddenly come to life.

We call this moment “overcoming the coaching hurdle”, when the discomfort of the unfamiliar practices of asking rather than telling pay off in a meaningful way.

Once a leader experiences coaching as a better way to get results, they also typically realize it is more fun and challenging to develop people with coaching than it is to constantly solve their problems for them. They also begin to experience the long-term benefit of the line outside their door dwindling, as their people become more proficient at solving their own problems and more empowered to make better decisions.

Time and again we see that getting people to experiment with small, safe-feeling experiments is a reliable way to help bring about a shift in mindset.

Flow and the Virtuous Cycle of Learning

Many culture transformations fail to take hold because it can be difficult to  get leaders to try on new mindsets and practice new behaviors.

It does not have to be that way when you understand how to help leaders regain the love of learning that is built into their nervous system and you help them learn the way their brains like to learn.

All of our leadership development and culture transformation programs leverage the neuroscience of optimal performance and continual learning.

When you help people break big goals down into milestones and practices that are neither too daunting nor too simple, you help them rediscover their zone of flow and optimal performance.

There are ways to harness this innate power for so many practices that support the type of mindsets needed for the culture transformations organizations seek to stay relevant in these complex and constantly changing times.

We laid out the case for doing it with questioning and listening practices to create cultures of coaching and 100% accountability above.

The approach works equally well for some of the other practices that drive the most important mindset shifts needed today:

  • Perspective seeking to drive customer-centric culture
  • Communicating with candor to drive high-feedback culture
  • Collaborative decision-making to drive a culture of innovation and creativity
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